On Thursday 8 March 2018, the Center for Empathy in International Affairs and Conciliation Resources convened a roundtable discussion in London on biases in conflict.
The discussion was chaired by Matt Waldman, Director of CEIA, and was attended by 26 experts and practitioners in conflict resolution. All the participants were from organisations that are part of the Mediation Support Network, the global network of mainly NGOs that support mediation in peace negotiations, including the Carter Center, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Clingendael Academy, Crisis Management Initiative, Search for Common Ground, Swisspeace, and United States Institute of Peace.
The discussion explored the ways in which powerful biases often affect the thoughts, perceptions and emotions of adversaries that can serve to amplify or perpetuate violent conflict. Participants discussed how third party mediators are also sometimes subject to biases that affect their efforts to successfully mitigate or resolve conflict. Overall, it was considered that biases affecting the parties to conflict often increase resistance and create obstacles to mediation and peacemaking efforts, and that identifying ways to address them are therefore a critical concern for peacebuilding practitioners.
Among other things, the discussion considered the kinds of biases that tend to arise in conflict; how, why and in what circumstances they arise; the impact these biases have on conflict and efforts to mitigate or resolve conflict; and what steps can be taken to reduce biases and their adverse impact.
Members of the Mediation Support Network: